second most quoted letter William B. Travis penned in the Alamo
while awaiting Santa Anna's assault began, "Take care of my little
boy. If the country should be saved, I may make him a splendid fortune;
but if the country should be lost, and I should perish, he will
have nothing but the proud recollection that he is the son of the
man who died for his country."
Travis wrote this last letter from the Alamo
early in March 1836 to David Ayers, who operated a mercantile business
and also ran a small school in his home in Washington
County. The message concerned Travis' son, Charles Edward, who
boarded and attended Ayers' school. We know what happened to William
B. Travis in the final and fatal defense
of the Alamo, but who is David Ayers?
Ayers was born in Morristown, New Jersey, on August 10, 1793. Ayers
married Lydia Ann McHenry in 1815, and worked in the mercantile
in Ithaca, New York. Ayers migrated to Texas in 1832 and claimed
land not far from the Brazos River and the community eventually
known as Washington-on-the
Brazos. He returned to New York to bring his family, including
his brothers, to Texas, and with them
a box of Bibles and other books supplied by the New York Sunday
Ayers was a Methodist missionary in addition to his business and
secular educational interests. Another letter written by Travis
several years before he died at the Alamo
had requested that Methodist missionaries be sent to Texas.
Protestant religious work was prohibited under Mexican law, but
that was a law easily evaded due to non-existent endorsement. As
early as 1832 Samuel Doak McMahon had begun Methodist meetings at
his home near San
Augustine, and Baptists and Presbyterians also had initiated
meetings in Nacogdoches
and elsewhere. Ayers helped organize an official Methodist conference
and served as its secretary.
Ayers did not fight in the Revolution, owing to a hearing deficiency,
but he did assist in helping families involved in the Runaway
Scrape. He returned after the Texian victory at San
Jacinto to find his home destroyed, so he relocated first to
area, then Washington,
and finally to Galveston.
In each venue Ayers either helped to found or to foster an existing
Methodist meeting, including service as secretary of the first Methodist
Missionary Society and the founding of Rutersville
College in 1840.
Ayers spent his final years in Galveston,
again in the mercantile business, although he served as United States
deputy marshal, published the Texas Christian Advocate, and remained
an active supporter of St. James Methodist Church until his death
on October 25, 1881.